Google’s Bid for Social Domination

Google and Sidewiki at a recent photo shoot.

Google and Sidewiki at a recent photo shoot.

What if last month Google made the entire web social, yet most people – and companies – didn’t seem to notice?  Because that’s what happened with the launch of Google Sidewiki and the reaction – other than in some corners of the blogosphere – was a loud, distracted yawn.

Is it because everyone now expects the web to be social or is it because the full implications of Google Sidewiki have yet to fully realized?

I tend to think it is the latter.

This was the reaction of the New York Times Bits blog: “Google is rolling out a new service on Wednesday that will allow users to post notes alongside Web sites that can be read by other users.”

That’s putting it mildly.  What about the part where web site owners don’t control the comments?  They can’t edit them.  They can’t delete them.  And anybody who has Sidewiki will be able to read them in there entirety be they raving reviews or scathing criticisms.  It’s what every web operator needs – a public place for the crazies to leave their messages – permanently.

Google has basically made every single web page social – and that’s a paradigm shift of earthquake portions for brands, brand managers and communicators.

It’s a world where the third Sidewiki entry on the YouTube home page reads: “The new channel editor for you tube sucks. It’s gawd awful, please take that shit off.”

I’m sure that’s exactly the kind of intelligent discourse YouTube’s brand managers are looking for on the front page of their web site – for all to see.

Two analysts who do get the power of Sidewiki are Jeremiah Owyang and Charlene Li of Altimeter Group.  They wrote a post yesterday addressing Google’s “stealth” move into social media by quietly making the web social (thereby weakening the grip of large social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook).

The post goes on to say:

“This is the stealth threat — that today’s social networks won’t really be losing share to the “Google network,” but rather, that they will become slowly less relevant as EVERYTHING gets social thanks to advances by Google.  Their end goal?  Google’s social network is designed to exist everywhere –not be centralized in any one location.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

So far the response by web owners and companies have been surprisingly muted.  The mainstream press has done few hard-hitting analysis on Sidewiki.  Is it because Sidewiki hasn’t reached critical mass yet?

What do you think?

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43 Responses to “Google’s Bid for Social Domination”

  1. I don’t understand why everyone is so up in arms about google. they’re motto is ‘do no evil’ and so far they appear to be a better company than most banks, financial services firms and insurance cos. that’s for sure.

  2. “And anybody who has Sidewiki will be able to read them in there entirety”

    That’s why no one really cares, because unless you choose to see the comments you won’t. If that opt in system changes, then it will be a problem.

  3. That all sounds so conspiratory, yet, it is true.

    anon said: “a better company than most banks, financial services firms and insurance cos. that’s for sure.”

    Now I really laughed at this. Google’s motto is “profit at cost, at any rate” That’s their motto. “Do no evil”, what, google is quoting the bible or something now? Their ultimate goal is profit trhough any means necessary, with this they might (indirectly) screw anything on the internets. Think.

    This seems awful. Of course you have the choice to not view the sidewiki, but that is for any user, soon they’ll ad this thing everywhere and induce people to see it, and, if you’re the onwer of anything on the internet, you’re held hostage to the comments, for there is no “delete” or “do not include my site”.

  4. not suprising, google is a beast, its got so much control and involvment in our activities on the web. props for google being so successful. (

  5. I think Google is the competitor with Facebook and Twitter!

  6. Hi, I think that the Sidewiki will fill the internet with spam. I´m working on viral marketing campaigns and If this sidewiki expands I would really use it to advertise.The issue that everyone is saying that there is no control is aweful.I think this should not exist, maybe it can be used as an optional application to the websites, not a mandatory to everyone. See you!

  7. It is no different than leaving comments on your blog or on anything else comment-able. Ignore the crazies and follow up on decent leads. The idiots will leave idiotic information that will no doubt be useless for intelligent people and will be on par with the knowledge that the idiots reading the idiotic comments will already have (no loss here). With that in mind lets say something truly valuable gets posted, before you know it instead of a bunch of idiots ranting we have a bunch of ranting idiots that might be learning something (a little bit of a gain). To me it looks win-win. Aside from opening eyes it seems to be freedom of speech at its best, nothing wrong with that unless your a corporate marketing exec (or fanboy). In which case corporations will have to just do that much more to create quality products or services and engage in good business practices to ensure good reviews. I.E. If company A is a scam then a warning wiki could and should be posted. If Company A is legit then power to them. If A’s product sucks than they will gain valuable marketing information and feedback from wiki comments. Now lets say you have a religious group, crazy fundamentalist website, or other controversial interest group website with protesting wiki comments. Opinion is legal in the united states. Deal with it. I can stand outside a church and protest priests stealing money or touching little boys. Hell i can carry an AK to a protest and not be arrested. Now if what you say is true and the website cant do anything about it then I’m assuming that it is completely separate from anything that is privately owned. Just because something else pops up with a website in your browser does not mean its related or connected in anyway. If you type in Google “walmart” is the displayed results including text snapshots from the website private data? Thus the nature of data.

    In a “nutshell”. Best thing that could happen for freedom of speech.
    Who does side wiki benefit? the pe

  8. As long as its an “opt in” feature, I can’t see it becoming major. I wonder if side-wiki allows users to comment on sponsored results? I bet not.

  9. Really Nice Post.

    I think Google is competitor with Facebook and Twitter!

  10. The side wiki displays on YOUR website and not on search results (as I originally thought.) I think this is wrong and could have a negative effect on smaller less well known names on the web. If one person criticizes B&Q, so what the purchaser will probably still hold faith with the vendor as they are so big and well established. If one person criticizes Bobs Online hardware shop, it could lose him the sale. I think the placement of side wiki on the operators own site is fundamentally wrong. We encourage reviews on our site and in fact have thousands of reviews. However, each review needs to be spell/grammar checked and actioned if a complaint. Will Google do this? I think not. No our own review system is far more customer orientated with a real service and back-up and genuinely leads to customer satisfaction.

  11. By the way, I think your “Darth Vader” image sums it up nicely.

  12. So is Google headquarters the Death Star? They’d better watch out for Ewoks (or should that be Ewikis?)

  13. Thanks for this info. Darth Vader brought it to my attention from the WordPress main page, So appropriate. Nice touch.

  14. Seems to me this is analogous to people putting graffiti on advertisements, as they do in the NYC subway. Usually obscene or vulgar, but I appreciate the talk-back to the corporate line – it’s funny often.

    Obviously, this is a big pain in the neck for businesses who are trying to market an image, but they have the use of the Internet for free. If they want a proprietary venue for their junk, let them use cable TV or something like that.

  15. Can’t Google just stick to web searches and email? Does anyone even want this Sidewiki thing?


  16. people always try to knock down the biggest …

  17. The Totton Linnet October 9, 2009 at 11:27 am

    When God closes a door He always opens up a sidewiki 😉 😮

  18. Unless there is widespread adoption of this technology, I think it goes nowhere. There are certainly some great marketing opportunities out there and it makes it real easy to share comments to other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

    Give it time, I think it will catch on.

  19. Hi Nigel:
    I agree with your prediction that it will catch on, especially if Yahoo! and Microsoft begin to offer similar services.

  20. Um whats stopping me from posting Ads for my company all over all the competitors pages?
    I could point out their flaws and my benifits…for free…right on their website.

    it’ll become a war of who can spam more competitors…

    can you post links in your comments on peoples pages?

  21. Hi Xain:
    Yes, you can post links in the Sidewiki comments. No opportunity – yet – to buy ads, but the belief is that it is coming.

  22. Google is far better than Yahoo, however I hate their email services…

  23. I agree with some of the other posters here — it’s all about adoption. If it is adopted by a large community, then it starts to become relevant, otherwise, it’s just one more project out there.

  24. Google is taking over the world! Really they own so much. Not that I mind (yet), it’s very convenient to have so many things in one place and have them work together well. Keep up the good work Google, but let’s make sure we can get away from Big Brother if we need to.

    – J.S.
    Discover everything you need to know about music at

  25. Seriously, it’s not going to be popular until you can add pictures, track people, and post on multiple profiles simultaneously.

  26. google is always upto some thing shady lol

  27. Google has provided various free services to internet users ranging from gmail to blogger and books. I welcome any new one that Google launches for us. Thank you, Google.

  28. As long as theres a rating system for users leaving comments I see No problem with this. Like if I leave comment as “john doe” on bashing the “” users of sidewiki should be able to rate me(john doe) and my opinion(s) or previous opinions of websites, that way the hecklers lose power.

    If they(google) can neutralize sidewiki some how then this idea is genius. Because eventually it will just become a way of i guess free promotion for everyone and google can again add “ADSENSE” to sidewiki user(s) accounts. KACHING!!!

    To me this can be bigger than most people can imagine. Personally I don’t think facebook, myspace,twitter whatever will be affected. Especially not myspace who uses adsense. What I see again is Adsense getting more popular on peoples websites. alot of what google does is geared around adsense and getting google on more peoples websites. The people behind google are very good and forward thinking. i predict that Bing/msn slowly becomes a major player and yahoo slowly disappears being replaced by some other company.

    But again theres huge earning potential for all of us with sidewiki. As long as they have a rating system for users. google wins and everybody wins Well everybody involved in Internet marketing and Advertising wins. To the author great post i enjoyed reading it I will come back again.


  29. The trouble with any new software and tech is that when it becomes widespread its no longer a choice. As it becomes more & more popular its hard to avoid it and it becomes a necessity & is preloaded onto new computers. Websites adapt to it. Set up a pop up blocker and they turn to pop unders or little annoying windows to click thru. So now someone on the other end will have to invent a sidewicki block, which will probably affect all users, whether they use the sidewicki or not.
    For instance: IF you have a mac and can’t run internet explorer you lose a bunch of sites, even though there are other browsers, the sites don’t bother to support them. This includes banks, credit card companies and job applications. Or a website adds so much new flashy ads, you tube stuff and the like that some cpu’s can’t handle it. Turn off images or java to help the cpu and the site won’t work at all. If your computer can’t handle it & you can’t afford a new one, your off the internet. Its not really a ‘google thing’ or even a mac/pc thing, its an internet thing. There will be side effects if sidewicki catches on.
    If there is any conspiracy involved maybe its computer & software makers in general forcing us to buy new computers and software upgrades-whether we can afford them or not.

  30. reply to anonymous October 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I find it incredibly creepy that they’ve taken “do no evil” as their motto.

  31. I think Google is just trying to increase their coverage. They already have enough money to offer a prize for companies to get to the moon.

    They have enough power to be in the negotiating seat with China, a major world power. It’s getting quickly into the realm of politics.

    If anyone wants to switch sides to Microsoft, let me know… 🙂 I’m thinking I’ll stick it out with Google a while longer.

  32. Doesn’t make me love Google any more than I did before (which was not a lot) but it did make me go and watch Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

  33. Not totally sure what they’re looking to achieve with this one, but it would be better if they stayed focus on search and ads…at least for now 🙂

  34. I have always believed Google to be the best in many internet services, but this Sidewiki seems like an unnecessary irritation for anyone with their own webpage, companies and individuals alike.

    Imagine the damage that the Sidewiki could do on a corporate website. Now imagine what that same damage could do to a new company trying to start itself up with a nice fresh website. It could be detrimental to their success.

    It will probably catch on, but I don’t like the idea of it at all.

  35. im against the idea of anybody could leave comments without your opinion, and everyone knows how its gonna end up, (XXX: your site sucksss sooo baddd XPPP)… thats insane.

  36. I’m gonna spam the crap out of the Sidewiki page of my website with positive comments and constructive criticism. 🙂

  37. This does sound like a silent predator on the web. Lets hope it doesn’t get too out of hand.

  38. Lichanos writes that businesses have the use of the Internet for free. Huh? As a small business owner, I pay for a domain name, web hosting, security certificate, site design services, etc. I think that that makes my site MINE, and allows me to control its content.

    Google has a lot of great services, but I certainly don’t think that it lives by the maxim of “do no evil” – e.g., it’s scanned copyrighted books without getting permission from the copyright owners, saying that it was to the owners benefit. Sidewiki is another example of trampling copyright / ownership. I hope that someone finds a way to block it very soon!

  39. Funny and though provoking post. Thanks!

  40. People fail to realise this service uses a plugin. It’s not going to show up for anyone who does not download the plugin for their browser.

    Besides there’ll always be spam on those things. There’s no true benifit to avoiding negative comments about your website or corporation other than ignoring them.

  41. It seems to go against what people are describing Web 3.0, and the whole “community based” social networking that is allowing users to define what their social space content is to be used for and how it is supposed to be treated.

    A global community made up of nodes instead of streaming platforms of discourse seems to be the general direction the users of the web are heading. Niche websites with a good degree of personalization and interactivity I think is how people want to dress up their Online presence – not sprawling suburbs of virtual residents but rather virtual villages.


  42. Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave comments behind. Some great fodder for thought!

  43. I hope its not just about letting people add comments and then charge the owner to give rid of them. It sounds a good idea to me, but I have the feelings it might become a pay service for someone

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